THU 14 - 11 - 2019
 
Date: Apr 15, 2019
Source: The Daily Star

Folder: Elections
Lebanon: Interior minister announces Jamali's victory in by-election
BEIRUT: Interior Minister Raya El Hassan has officially announced that Future Movement candidate Dima Jamali won Sunday’s Tripoli by-election, after the party said it had won by over 60 percent of the total votes.

Around midnight Sunday, Hassan said Jamali had received 19,387 votes, with a voter turnout of 12.55 percent, according to the state-run National News Agency. Based on the Interior Ministry’s figures, Jamali won 66 percent of the votes.

The Future Movement had earlier reported that Jamali garnered 19,398 votes, while candidate Yehya Mawloud won 3,313. They were followed by former MP Misbah Ahdab with 2,520 votes, Omar al-Sayyed with 2,161, Nizar Zakka with 514 and Talal Kabbara 305. No figures were given for the other candidates.

Hassan said of the 241,534 eligible voters, 33,963 had cast a ballot. Of those ballots, 2,648 were spoiled and 1,951 were blank.

Jamali’s win was widely expected, after she was nominated by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and endorsed by most of the other major political powers in Tripoli: former Prime Minister Najib Mikati and former ministers Mohammad Safadi and Ashraf Rifi.

She returns to Parliament less than two months after she was unseated through an appeal before the Constitutional Council - the only successful challenge to the results of the May 2018 national elections.

Dima Jamali claims victory in Tripoli by-election

Benjamin Redd & Hussein Dakroub| The Daily Star
TRIPOLI/BEIRUT: Just 12 percent of eligible voters appeared to have turned out in Tripoli’s by-election Sunday, but still handily returned Dima Jamali to Parliament.

Jamali won with 68 percent of the vote, according to preliminary figures released Sunday night by the Future Movement.

She returns to Parliament less than two months after she was unseated through an appeal before the Constitutional Council - the only successful challenge to the results of the May 2018 national elections.

“Thank you, Tripoli. ... Right now we have a greater responsibility to work for Tripoli and secure all of our rights,” Jamali said ahead of the official announcement of her victory.

Jamali’s win was widely expected after being nominated by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and endorsed by most of the other major political powers in Tripoli: former Prime Minister Najib Mikati and former ministers Mohammad Safadi and Ashraf Rifi.

While by-elections typically have low turnout, Sunday’s was especially dreary. Lebanon’s last by-election, held in Jezzine in 2016, saw turnout around 45 percent. A hard-fought by-election in Minyeh, just north of Tripoli, saw a third of eligible voters show up in 2010.

And turnout in Tripoli was low in the 2018 general polls too: Just under 40 percent of the electorate came out, down from 46 percent in the previous parliamentary elections in 2009, according to figures from Information International, a consultancy.

The low turnout had been expected. Future Movement Secretary-General Ahmad Hariri had forecast it to be 10-12 percent. “There is no excitement about the election,” as Tripoli Mayor Ahmad Qamareddine put it.

Two middle-aged friends passing time in Tripoli’s central Tell Park showcased the city’s ambivalence to the elections.

“There’s no future, no jobs. I wouldn’t vote for any of them,” complained Rabih Naboulsi, showing his fingers - free of the purple dye that marks those who voted.

His friend Adel Beiruti, who sported a purple finger, said, “Hariri is clean; he’s better than the others,” adding that he had voted for Jamali.

Nevertheless, Jamali and her challengers tried to inject vim into the race.

Jamali’s foremost opponent was Yahya Mawloud, a self-styled opposition candidate who unsuccessfully ran with the Tahalof Watani coalition in 2018.

Mawloud won 3,313 votes to Jamali’s 19,398, according to the Future Movement. They were followed by former MP Misbah Ahdab with 2,520 votes, Omar al-Sayyed with 2,161, Nizar Zakka with 514 and Talal Kabbara 305. No figures were given for the other candidates. There were some 241,000 eligible voters.

Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun is set to chair a meeting of the Higher Defense Council at 11 a.m. Monday at Baabda Palace to discuss security measures ahead of the Easter holiday, an official source said Sunday.

The meeting will review the security situation in the country, the situation in the south and measures to beef up security ahead of the Easter holiday, which begins later this week, the source told The Daily Star.

In addition to Hariri and the defense, interior, finance, economy and foreign affairs ministers, the meeting will also be attended by heads of military and security agencies, including Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun, the source said.

The Cabinet is also slated to meet at Baabda Palace Thursday to begin discussing the 2019 draft state budget, a presidential palace source told The Daily Star. “After having endorsed the electricity plan, the Cabinet will focus its efforts on accelerating the approval of the 2019 draft budget,” the source said.

The electricity blueprint is designed to restructure the dilapidated sector, boost power supply and reduce subsidies to the state-run Electricite du Liban, estimated at $2 billion annually.

Both Hariri and Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil have said the budget would include austerity measures and reductions in spending in a bid slash the budget deficit, which stood at $7.6 billion last year.

Khalil has submitted to Hariri a revised 2019 draft budget, which contains reductions in all ministries’ spending. He has called for cutting the budget deficit by 2.5 percent each year for the next five years.

Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt called after meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri Sunday for reducing government spending.

“The main topic is how to overcome the economic impasse. As I understood from Minister Ali Hasan Khalil at Speaker Berri’s instructions, all efforts will be deployed toward achieving the [2019] budget,” Joumblatt said after the meeting that was also attended by Khalil and former minister Ghazi Aridi.

The PSP leader called for taking “basic steps” to rationalize and reduce spending. “This opportunity could be the last one required to reassure the Lebanese and put things in their normal perspective,” he said.

Although neither Hariri nor Khalil has so far elaborated on the government’s planned austerity measures, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil appeared to cast light on these measures by calling for cuts in the salaries and incentives of civil servants, including ministers and MPs, as a means to rescue the economy and the Lebanese pound.

“We are done with a major challenge over the electricity issue and we are heading to implement it. But we are heading for a greater challenge over the budget,” Bassil, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, said during a tour of villages in east Sidon Saturday.

“In electricity, they raced to gain credit. But in the budget, everyone is keeping silent because there are difficult decisions,” Bassil said, adding: “We have said from the first day that the state’s debt must not be as it is and it must be reduced. State employees must accept that they cannot continue in this manner. Anyone who feels sad because he will lose a certain amount of incentives, he must think that if we don’t do this, he will not get anything afterward.”

“We must say: Be careful, if we don’t reduce [salaries], there will be no salaries, no economy and no [Lebanese] pound. Our choice is to take temporary measures in order for the economy to rebound and the pound to be stabilized,” Bassil said. He added that if the need arose to begin cutting the salaries of ministers and MPs, let it be.

With $85 billion in public debt, Lebanon has the world’s third-largest debt-to-GDP ratio.


 
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